He was fat. He was slow. He was often intoxicated, and/or appeared to have a speech impediment. If it was an act, it didn’t seem like it. And if he was in on the joke — which ended in 2007, when he was found guilty of molesting two teenage girls and legally barred from portraying his reality TV “character” — it didn’t seem like it.
Now, Vincent “Don Vito” Margera — the uncle of “Jackass”-affiliated prankmeister Bam Margera and the heel of his nephew’s MTV reality show “Viva La Bam” — is dead at 59. Margera battled liver and kidney failure in his final years, as his family told TMZ, and died Sunday.
“He struggled with kidney and liver issues for a while, and he put up a good fight,” his sister-in-law April Margera told CNN. “But he died this morning at 6:45 a.m. at Chester County Hospital in West Chester, Pennsylvania.”
“RIP Don Vito,” Johnny Knoxville, the closest thing to an A-list star that came from the “Jackass” franchise, wrote. “You will be missed.”
Others offered measured praise — or outright criticism.
“Don Vito died?” one user wrote on Twitter. “No loss. Too bad it wasn’t before he touched kids and whatnot.”
“I thought Don Vito died like 7 years ago,” another wrote.
This wasn’t just humor or hyperbole. In the wake of his sex crimes, Margera was barred, by a Colorado court, from playing the character of Don Vito — so named for his mumbling, a la Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone in “The Godfather.” The problem: Vincent Margera was Don Vito, and Don Vito was Vincent Margera. It’s a question as relevant to Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” as it is to “Keeping Up the Kardashians”: How can one stop playing oneself?
Before the rise of reality TV, Vincent Margera would likely have lived and died quietly in the Philadelphia suburb where he lived for decades. But his nephew, skateboarder Bam, rose to prominence as a member of MTV’s “Jackass” crew. Known for its cast’s irreverent, ridiculous — and sometimes dangerous — shenanigans, “Jackass” proved an incredibly popular MTV series and feature-film franchise. Bam’s spinoff, “Viva La Bam,” hit the air in 2003. And in this spotlight, Don Vito became a star — or, depending on one’s view, a black hole.